Synopses & Reviews
The role the South has played in contemporary conservatism is perhaps the most consequential political phenomenon of the second half of the twentieth century. The regions transition from Democratic stronghold to Republican base has frequently been viewed as a recent occurrence, one that largely stems from a 1960s-era backlash against left-leaning social movements. But as Joseph Lowndes argues in this book, this rightward shift was not necessarily a natural response by alienated whites, but rather the result of the long-term development of an alliance between Southern segregationists and Northern conservatives, two groups who initially shared little beyond opposition to specific New Deal imperatives.
Lowndes focuses his narrative on the formative period between the end of the Second World War and the Nixon years. By looking at the 1948 Dixiecrat Revolt, the presidential campaigns of George Wallace, and popular representations of the region, he shows the many ways in which the South changed during these decades. Lowndes traces how a new alliance began to emerge by further examining the pages of the National Review and Republican party-building efforts in the South during the campaigns of Eisenhower, Goldwater, and Nixon. The unique characteristics of American conservatism were forged in the crucible of race relations in the South, he argues, and his analysis of party-building efforts, national institutions, and the innovations of particular political actors provides a keen look into the ideology of modern conservatism and the Republican Party.
"Political scientist Lowndes breaks fresh ground in this history of contemporary conservatism, refuting the backlash thesis, which holds that Southern voters turned to the Republican Party after the Democrats embraced a civil rights platform. The author reveals how the backlash was anything but reactionary it was the result of long-running mobilizing strategies by conservatives who made successful appeals to white voters and divergent elements in Southern politics: 'the bourbon politics of the black belt regions... the complex tradition of southern populism; and the political aspirations of the emergent metropolitan bourgeoisie.' The book highlights the largely unknown Charles Wallace Collins, who first aligned segregationists and conservatives and provided the philosophical underpinnings for the states' rights movement. Well-researched and readable sections detail the crucial role of the staunchly anti civil rights National Review and how Southern conservatism was variously interpreted and shaped by its progenitors and champions from George Wallace to Richard Nixon. While Lowndes loses focus in an irrelevant profile of radio commentator and Klan member Asa Carter, his book is a valuable contribution to the study of contemporary conservatism. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Joseph E. Lowndes is assistant professor of political science, University of Oregon. He lives in Eugene.